I know it seems as though I am, but I swear, I’m really not. Or perhaps I am. I’ve always been this way, so I don’t know any different.
It sounds like I talk to myself, but really I’m talking to the characters in my head. I’m listening to their conversations and trying to understand how they feel.
I stare out the window at nothing, so it seems, but really I can’t see the swing set or the weeds in the garden. I see a valley under a burning summer sun and a girl with black hair and her black horse and the war inside her heart.
I see a storm on the horizon and I wonder which words could describe the rolling rumble of the thunder or the blistering white of the lightning. I wonder how to describe to smell of the earth as it readies for the rain, or how to convey the anticipation on the wind scoring the valley in the apron of the clouds.
When I hear music I don’t hear the words, or the melody or the drums. I feel them, and I wonder at the place they came from and what they really mean.
I waste my time watching marathons of period dramas and political thrillers and documentaries into the lives of kings and peasants and warriors, but not because I can’t see the dishes on the sink or the washing that needs to be done, or that I don’t care. I do it because this is work to me. This is what I do. This is what I have always done. This is what I must do.
I cannot write good things, meaningful things, the things that make a heart turn one way or another, without doing the work of thinking, of feeling, of watching. I cannot become another person, or a hundred other people, without spending a thousand hours inside my own head.
From the outside, it’s time wasting and lazy and boring. It’s silent and sombre and weird. It means things don’t get done, or more often they are half done and badly so. They pile up and stare at me and accuse me of being a failure because those things are important too.
I spend countless hours on social media, on the internet, or with my nose pressed against a screen, for so long and so often my hands ache and my little fingers go numb. My back hurts from sitting at the computer, the cursed wrist on the right throbs no matter what I do or what ergonomic gadgets I use to get the work done. It might seem as though I’m wasting time on Facebook, but in reality, it’s my office. It’s my workplace, the only place I can converse and debate and share with my colleagues. It’s the place where people like me, who are working at the same goals and in the same industry, can come together and have some sense of community. Most of us have never met face to face, and we probably never will, but we engage in the same challenge and that make us a family.
If it weren’t for the thousands of hours I spend online, I would never have connected with the people who can teach me the things I need to make my career happen. I wouldn’t know that it’s normal to stare at a screen and a blinking cursor, and have nothing happen in your mind. I wouldn’t have known to send my manuscript to an assessor before submitting it to a publisher, or which assessor or publisher was the right fit for my work. I wouldn’t be able to share what I’ve learned, or the the bad times or the good times with people who get it. I wouldn’t know about the events, the conferences, the courses and conventions that are so important to the fostering of a writing community.
What’s worse, is none of this time I spend in my head or on the computer pays a dividend. It is thankless and private and most of all, unpaid. If I went to a job outside these four walls, in an office with a boss and a pay cheque, my failure to do the other things could be somewhat forgiven. At least I let them fall to the side for a purpose, a reason, that returns something to this house.
Worse again, if I don’t spend the time seemingly doing nothing, the words I write won’t ever be good enough to return a living to our house. Without the hours and days of thinking and watching and listening and dreaming, nothing I write is any good, and we both know it’s the only thing I’ve ever been any good at. If I don’t have this, then what do I have? What am I, who am I, without my work?
So please don’t think my crazy, or lazy or boring. Inside I’m working harder than I ever have to do the things we know I’ve always dreamed of. We are closer than we have ever been to seeing the dream become a reality, closer than I ever dared think possible and much closer than I dared admit to myself. We are on the verge of something awesome, an adventure where we can’t know the path or destination and that makes it all the more exciting.
I know it drives you mad, this circus that is our life. But it’s so much more fun than the alternative, so let’s be a little crazy and do the mad things. Let’s run away and join the circus and be the ring-masters and never let anyone tell us otherwise.